Fifty Shades of Grey
  Katrina Khan
Book Review
March 2015



with Katrina Khan

50 Shades of Grey  

by E.L. James.

Katrina Khan has a passion for painting and drawing as well as literature and the natural sciences. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies where she studied Environmental and Natural Resource Management with Marine Biology, a dream come true for this ocean lover. She now balances a full-time job with postgraduate studies and satisfying her need for literary and artistic expression.

The book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James is featured on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Paperback Trade Fiction and has gained great interest in the world of literature. It is an erotica novel that began as a fan written piece (commonly called a fan-fiction) using inspiration and characters from the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. First published in 2011, two other volumes,  Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, were subsequently released in 2012. The author, under the alias E.L. James, is from the United Kingdom and currently lives with her screenwriter husband and two teenaged sons. She was raised in South-East England and attended the University of Kent with a major in History. Her employment repertoire include being assistant to a studio manager at a film school and as a television executive. It is inspiring to note that even as a career woman, wife and mother, she made time to explore her hobbies of reading and writing. Her creativity led her to take down the story she had freely posted online and launch it as a self-published book. The immense success of this entrepreneur stands as a testament to the power of talent and that elusive ability to take risks for a dream.

The story follows a young woman named Anastasia Steele who is in the middle of the transition from University student to the working world. As a favour to her ill roommate, she agrees to conduct an interview for the campus newspaper with a young, successful man who is a steward of the University. Upon meeting him, she is captivated by his grey gaze, a colour to match his name. Christian Grey had Anastasia in the palm of his hand from the moment they met. She was intensely drawn to him, both emotionally and physically. He warns her that he is not the right man for such an innocent and inexperienced girl. However, her need for him overturns any obstacle that her subconscious puts in her way  (including all the many reasons why they should not be together), and she allows herself to be taken.

The literary part of the story leaves much to be desired. Indeed, the poor language development has the reader sometimes struggling to continue. Nevertheless, the descriptive techniques used for the more mature parts of the book are concurrent with other books in this genre. Erotica novels leave little to the imagination and the author succeeded in bringing a previously taboo form of sexual practice to the public eye by detailing the subtleties explicitly. Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) sexual practices are explored in the book, described from Anastasia’s inexperienced point of view. The average female reader can identify with the character and the attraction of such a fantasy-like encounter. This could be the reason why this book has claimed the title of ‘Fastest Selling Paperback of all Time.’

A major theme within the story is loss of innocence. Anastasia seems to be the virginal sacrifice to the monster that is Christian. Other themes of alcoholism, extravagance by the dominant and the related obedience and loss of dignity by the submissive are clearly brought forward as the story progresses. The protagonist is assailed by the pressures of her relationship in an all-consuming way, leading to breakdown in other relationships and loss of focus from other important aspects of life. Anastasia’s point of view gives a humorous insight into her mental subliminal voices and relates to them as her ‘subconscious’ and ‘inner goddess’.

The magnetic facet of this story for me is the issue riddled Christian Grey. As a character, the complexity of his story line is most intriguing and as a reader you cannot help but want to understand why he is the way that he is. He also functions as a major attraction to the reader as the author uses enough imagery to create a tantalizing bit of imaginary eye candy. The author has successfully tapped into the female psyche and the hidden dark desires within, bringing to the page a world that many women will be happy to safely dream of as an escape from a mundane reality.

A movie adaptation of the book was released in the United States on Valentine's Day 2015 and more recently in Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world. Couples flocked to the cinemas in droves and the film stayed at the top of box office lists, breaking records and playing at sold out cinemas world wide. It was met with extreme criticism, with critics citing the relationship as abusive and not something that women should be desiring. Despite all the mixed reviews, the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey continues.


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By: Katrina Khan | Book Review | March 2015